Women use their voices to take back their power

For the tenth year in a row, the Women’s Center marched for a woman’s power to use her voice.

Last Wednesday night on the steps of Green Hall, men and women gathered to show their support for “Take Back the Night.”

“Over the past 10 years, we have worked hard to break the silence surrounding sexual assault and I hope that we will continue to do so, until the violence stops and a night like tonight is no longer needed,” Emily Bent, senior women’s and gender studies major, said.

President R. Barbara Gitenstein opened the event. Janet Gray, assistant professor of women’s and gender studies, presented general information on the “Take Back the Night” rally. Monique Hankerson, senior women’s and gender studies major, performed a poetry reading about her personal experience with silence. Her piece moved students to realize the importance of claiming their voices, according to Heather McConnell, senior women’s and gender studies major.

The rally turned into a march around the residence halls on campus. There was a combination of questioning looks as well as supportive cheers coming from the buildings. About 125 people, including students, faculty, alumni and professional staff members participated.

When the procession returned to Green Hall, an open-mic forum was held. Any student who wanted to recounted stories of sexual, emotional, mental and physical abuse.

“Once you name it, you can take control of the experience and not let it control you,” McConnell said, commenting on the power of telling your story.

Men told stories of friends who were survivors and encouraged other men to make this issue a personal one. They were urged to not be afraid of speaking out about violence against women.

Women benefited from speaking out as well.

“We really found a strong community of women on campus that night,” Keiko Suwa, senior communication studies major, said.

At the end of the rally the crowd joined together around the theme of celebrating the empowerment of women across the campus, helping to put a positive spin on the night itself.

“I am proud and honored to be able to experience this night with such amazing women and men,” Bent said. “The campus really came together tonight to celebrate the empowerment of women and the TCNJ campus as a whole.”

As a part of the 10-year observation of “Take Back the Night,” the Women’s Center held other events. These included a panel discussion on sexual assualt on campus, as well as Noelle Roope, a speaker on same-sex domestic and sexual abuse. They also held a drive collecting toiletries, especially bath products, and baby formula for women in need.